Northern Michigan University to offer new degree in growing cannabis


Sara Tiradossi

Northern Michigan University has recently unveiled a new degree in growing cannabis, a four-year course covering chemistry, biology, horticulture and finance.

The director of the university’s chemistry department Dr. Mark Paulsen, said the Medicinal Plant Chemistry program counts 12 students and the number keeps increasing every week.

The program will prepare students for success in the emerging industries of medicinal plant production, analysis and distribution. Students will learn how to measure and extract the compounds that help to treat nausea, chronic pain, seizures, glaucoma, and other illnesses.

Professor Brandon Canfield came up with the idea of having a degree focused on the cannabis industry when he was attending an American Chemical Society meeting last year.

“Obviously, the program is new and different and it might speak to a certain crowd. But for a student to succeed, they’re going to have to be very dedicated and motivated,” Canfield said. “This is not an easy program. It’s a really intense, biology chemistry program.”

After 18 months of development, the program is now off and running.

Medical cannabis revenues in Michigan are estimated at more than $700 million, and if full legalization happens, they could be even higher. As more states are approving legalization, there will be a growing demand for trained analytical chemists in the cannabis industry.

The university will not be able to provide hands-on experience on cannabis plants, but that could change if laws around cultivation become more flexible. Students will still utilize other medicinal plants to obtain adequate knowledge, and work closely with cultivators, dispensaries and other businesses.

Northern Michigan University stands out with its unique program, compared to a number of prestigious universities and colleges that offered classes on cannabis policy and law.